The Marriage Plot (which I did not finish) by Jeffrey Eugenides

I never did write an end of the year wrap-up post for 2011 or a post outlining my reading plans for 2012, but one goal I have for this year is to blog about every book that I read and here’s the first one of the year that I did not finish. Generally, I’ll give a book 50-100 pages before I let it go. I used to feel the need to finish every book that I started, but those days are long gone.

The Marriage Plot was one of the big books of last fall. You’ve probably seen it on the best-seller display at your favorite bookstore or library. I contemplated reading it, but then it dropped further down on my “maybe” list and I eventually forgot about it until the new book group that I joined this year chose it as our second book. (Our first book was A Discovery of Witches, which I read and loved last spring.)

So I gave The Marriage Plot the old college try. At first I enjoyed it, but pretty quickly started losing interest. I liked the writing, but the characters (and plot) didn’t interest me and that’s pretty much a must for me. I don’t have to like the characters, but they do have to be compelling for some reason, any reason, to keep me reading. The characters in this novel lacked blood. I just couldn’t force myself to keep reading and threw in the towel.

The novel had some good moments, such as the scene when, after a semiotics class, Madeleine runs into the library and pulls a literary classic off the shelf “to restore herself to sanity.” The passage goes on,

How wonderful it was when one sentence followed logically from the sentence before! What exquisite guilt she felt, wickedly enjoying narrative! Madeleine felt safe with a nineteenth-century novel. There were going to be people in it. Something was going to happen to them in a place resembling the world.

After suffering through literary theory classes myself in the early 90s, I could relate.
The other members of my book group gave it a 3/5 rating: they admired the writing, but the story and/or characters didn’t grab them either.

Let me end by sharing with you a revealing detail about the particular library copy I was reading. I was struck by the number of dog-eared pages in this edition, particularly considering this is still a hot title with a lengthy waiting list at the library and not a book that’s been around for decades or even a few years:

  • Between pages 3-82 there are 11 dog-eared pages. The book starts on page 3.
  • Between pages 83-406 there are exactly 0 dog-eared pages.

So, either people found bookmarks to use or I can safely take it as a sign that I’m not the only one who gave up on this one.

Have you read The Marriage Plot? What did you think?


  1. I love the dog-ear reference! Maybe it can be a new way to rate a book. Instead of 1 star or 3 stars or 5 stars, have 1 dog-ear, 2 dog-ear, 3 dog-ear, etc. A 5-dog-eared book would definitely be a winner!

  2. I found the novel to be engrossing and well-written. A sophisticated “beach read”.
    And what an interesting writer is Jeffrey Eugenides. Each of his three novels is different enough from the others to have been written by different authors. Hope we don't have to wait another six years for the next one.
    Data Encryption

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